a full lobster supper with steamed new potatoes at Lobster on the Wharf on Prince Edward Island
Credit: Graydon Herriott

The Best Tools for Cooking Lobster Like a Professional

Because summer is the best time to learn how to cook lobster.
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We all know that lobster is the star of summer seafood, but lobster recipes can actually be enjoyed all year long. From lobster ravioli to lobster mac and cheese, these crustaceans are totally versatile—they're just as delicious when grilled on a beach as they are when simmered into a cozy winter meal. With all the fantastic lobster recipes at your fingertips, it's about time to learn how to cook lobster properly. Before you start, it's important to set yourself up for success with some helpful tools.

There are plenty of opinions out there about how to kill, cook, and crack lobsters correctly. If you've never done it before, the task can be daunting. It's a messy job but one that's easy to perfect with a few good tools and tips. To help you get started, we've rounded up a few of our favorite gadgets that help make the messy job a little easier. Above all, you'll need a heavy-duty stockpot like the All-Clad Stainless Steel Stockpot that can poach, steam and boil even the biggest lobsters. Read on for more essential tools for cooking lobster at home.

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Credit: All Clad

Best Stock Pot: All-Clad Stainless Steel Stockpot

View at Williams Sonoma ($200)

Also available at All-Clad.

Boiling lobsters is one of the quickest and easiest ways to cook them to perfection. However, you need a large, sturdy, and durable stockpot to do it effectively. This 16-quart, stainless steel pot from All-Clad features tall sides with a tight fitting lid. It's compatible with gas, electric, induction, and ceramic stovetops, and is even oven-safe up to 600 degrees. Riveted handles make it easy to pick up and move around, which is important if you plan to transfer large pots of lobster from the sink to the stovetop or grill. It's dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup.

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Utility Knife: Victorinox 8-Inch Chef's Knife

View at Amazon ($37)

Also available at Walmart.

Breaking down lobsters is a messy job, so it's important to use a durable knife that is properly suited to the task. A good utility knife should be sharp and sturdy, but more importantly, it should have a slip-free handle that's lightweight and easy to grip. This affordable knife is the perfect choice for cutting through tough lobster shells because it won't break or chip. Expensive knives can have super-sharp blades, but they can be delicate and fragile. This workhorse knife is safe and dependable, thanks to the ergonomic, non-slip handle, an extra-wide blade and balanced feel. 

"This is a totally reliable, inexpensive knife that can do all tasks well." - Juli Hale, Test Kitchen Brand Manager

Related: Amazon Shoppers Say These Utility Knives Cut Through Anything–and They're Just $19 for 4

Credit: Bed Bath & Beyond

Best Cutting Board: Oxo Good Grips Carving and Cutting Board

View at Oxo ($29)

Also available at Bed Bath and Beyond.

Whether you're cutting into them raw or cooked, whole lobsters come with a lot of dripping juices. To catch all the slippery seawater and juicy bits of shellfish, an extra-large, extra-durable cutting board is a must. Oxo's carving board is roomy and spacious, so you can fit a few lobsters and all the extra bits that come with them. The drip-catcher and easy-pour edges are perfect for seafood, and rubberized edges keep it steadily in place while also serving as comfortable grips. This board is made of polypropylene, which is more durable than wood and won't crack or weather over time. This cutting board is dishwasher-safe so you can be sure that it's properly sanitized in between each use.

Related: The 6 Best Cutting Boards for Every Kitchen Task

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Kitchen Towels: Royal Classic Kitchen Cotton Towels

View at Amazon ($17)

When butchering lobsters it's important to have a pile of extra-absorbent kitchen towels on hand. It's too messy of a job to trust to nice, decorative kitchen towels, and there's no point in wasting rolls and rolls of paper towels cleaning up trickling seawater. These classic dish towels are durable and absorbent, and can be tossed in the washing machine to sterilize them in between each use. This pack of cotton towels is a more sustainable way to clean up messy dinner prep. 

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Kitchen Shears: J.A. Henckels Serrated Poultry Shears

View at Amazon ($43)

Also available at Zwilling.

Sharp shears are essential for cutting through tough lobster shells. This pair from J.A. Henckels is ergonomic, with a slip-free grip that makes them easy to maneuver around slippery claws and tails alike. Pointed tips make it easy to get into small crevices, and a serrated edge makes sawing through shells much easier. In fact, these shears are specifically designed to cut through poultry bones, so they are well suited to handle shellfish as well. Though they are dishwasher-safe, be sure to wash them by hand for best results.

Best Cracker and Pick Set: Williams Sonoma Seafood Crackers and picks

View at Williams Sonoma ($85)

Cracking into fresh lobster can be one of the most satisfying and rewarding culinary experiences, as long as you do it with the right tools. There's nothing worse than crushing and crumbling lobster meat rather than cracking it efficiently. A collection of lobster tools isn't complete without crackers and picks, and this set comes with two of each. Double-ended picks feature scoops on one end and forks on the other end. That way, you can dig into even the tiniest corners of the lobster to get every last bit of meat. Hinged crackers feature soft-grip, slip-resistant handles to easily break through super-tough shells. All four pieces of the stainless steel set are dishwasher-safe. 

Related: 10 Essential Tools You Need for Cooking Fish at Home

Factors to Consider

How to Humanely Butcher Lobsters

If you've ever been told to put a live lobster directly into boiling water, you might want to reconsider who is giving you cooking advice. There is a correct (and humane) way to butcher live lobsters. Before you get started, make sure to set yourself up with a station to minimize mess. Grab a heavy duty, sturdy cutting board–preferably one that isn't porous–and lay an old kitchen towel on top of it. The kitchen towel will help soak up any liquid and will prevent the lobster from sliding around on your board. You'll also want a heavy duty utility knife with a broad blade and sturdy handle. Be careful not to use a brand-new, super sharp chef's knife. Cutting through the lobster shell will dull the blade, so I prefer to designate one of my older, tougher utility knives to use on lobster. 

Lay the lobster flat on the kitchen towel over the cutting board, belly side down, and hold the lobster tail firmly with your non-dominant hand (I like to wrap it with a second old kitchen towel). Place the tip of the knife at the top of the head, behind the eyes, where the head and body meet and form a "T." Press the knife down until the tip hits the board. You may see the lobster tail or claw spasm but at this point any remaining movements are just nerve impulses.

How to Cook a Whole Lobster

After the lobster is deceased, place it in a large stock pot of boiling water. I like to season the water with aromatics like lemons, peppercorns, thyme and a dash or two of Old Bay. You may hear some squeaks, but contrary to what you might've been told, that's not the lobster "screaming." It's the sound of steam escaping through joints in the shell. 

How long to boil lobster depends on how big it is, so make sure to get an idea of the size before you leave the fishmonger (don't worry–they'll charge you accordingly.) Also consider that the necessary cook time starts when the water is boiling, so be sure to factor in the additional time it takes the water to return to a boil after adding the lobsters into the pot. Once your lobsters are in and the water has returned to a boil, cook for 10-13 minutes for a one pound lobster, and add three to six minutes for every additional half pound. Lobsters should be a bright, vibrant red when cooked thoroughly and the meat should be firm and white. 

How to Cook Lobster Tails and Claws 

Though you can absolutely cook and enjoy lobsters whole, it can be beneficial to separate the lobster tails from the lobster claws and knuckles before cooking. Lobster tail meat is much more dense than claw meat, so it requires a longer cooking time. To separate the tail from the rest of the body, use sharp kitchen shears to cut along the backside of the lobster, where the tail meets the body. Cut completely through the meat and shell all the way around the lobster. To separate the claws and arms, simply hold the body firmly and twist to break the arms off. Take turns placing the tails and claws in boiling water separately, and cook for one minute per ounce. 

Our Expertise

Laura Denby is a food writer and former professional chef who has spent many summers as a private chef working across Long Island and the Hamptons. Laura has a degree in Culinary Arts from the Institute of Culinary Education, and utilizes her professional cooking experience to inform her thoroughly researched and tested product buying guides. You can find more of Laura's work at FoodNetwork.com, Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens and Taste of Home.